Word processors are useful tools for formatting and printing stories. Having a story in an electronic format also makes sharing easy. But despite the convenience of these programs I still like to write using a pen on paper.
I write more slowly when I use ink and paper and this gives me more time to think about each word and sentence as it’s put on the page. Not having a delete button also slows me down. I am more likely to not write a poorly considered word if I have to scratch it out and dirty up the paragraph. I am also less likely to go back and fix mistakes in a word processor if I am flying through the lines on my keyboard.
Cutting, pasting, and rearranging blocks of text is manually easier on a computer but in a way it is more difficult because of the limited amount of space on a computer screen. Going from one part of the story to another requires a lot of scrolling up and down and copying from one part of the story to a more distant part of the story is awkward. When I write in longhand I can spread out the pages in front of me and very easily find a place in the story. This also helps me visualise the progress of my story.
But, you will say, cutting and pasting in longhand requires physical cutting and pasting, a time-consuming and messy process. I’ve found a way around this by writing only one paragraph on a sheet of paper. Or two sheets of paper if it’s a long paragraph. This isn’t as wasteful as it might seem because, when double spaced, a regular paragraph takes up about a page anyway. If I need to move a paragraph from one part of the story to another I physically move that sheet of paper to its new location and give it a new page number. If I moved page 3 to follow page 12 I would renumber it page 12.5 to avoid having to renumber other pages. I can also rewrite an edited paragraph and replace it.
When writing longhand it’s not possible to delete words so I have to make edits in the spaces between lines. The advantage to this is having a record of what I scratched out, in case I change my mind later and decide what I wrote first was better. I know it’s possible to keep track of edits in word processors but it’s not simple to do or look at later.
Writing with a pen also gives me a closer connection with the written word. When I write by hand and have physical paper to touch I feel that I’ve created something. I don’t feel this as much when the story is a collection of 1s and 0s saved somewhere on a hard drive, even though I had to type it in with my fingers. This is a subjective feeling, of course, and possibly lingers because when I was young I didn’t have a computer or printer and everything had to be done with a pen in notebooks.
The only disadvantage to writing in longhand is that once the story is written, edited, and the final draft is being held proudly in my hands, I have to go through the dull process of entering it into the computer for printing. But this gives me another chance to fix spelling mistakes or change words so perhaps I shouldn’t think of it as a chore.